The Route From Madrid

Camino de Madrid a Santiago de Compostela. A modern route designed by the Amigos de los Caminos de Santiago de Madrid to enable pilgrims from Madrid and central Spain to journey to the Camino francés under their own steam.

Roman Aquaduct, Segovia

Roman Aquaduct, Segovia

The route.  The route goes north-westwards from Madrid to Sahagún virtually in a straight line over the Sierra de Guadarrama, through Segovia and Coca, crosses the river Duero and finally the Tierra de Campos through Medina de Rioseco to Sahagún.

Length.  The route is 321 km long and takes about 2 weeks to walk (excluding rest days).

Waymarking.  The route is excellently waymarked throughout with yellow arrows.

Terrain.  The route is almost exclusively on footpaths and along Cañadas (historic drove roads) and only rarely on tarmac roads.  For the first 100 km, the way climbs the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama – high granite moorland.  Crossing the Sierra entails a stiff climb of 650m in 8 km to the Puerto de Fuenfria followed by a gradual descent to Segovia, almost all in endless pine forest.  Beyond Segovia the terrain is virtually flat.  The way follows the valleys of the rivers Eresma and Voltoya to the river Duero, an area of low sandhills and vast tracts of pine forests interspersed with equally vast open spaces, some cultivated, some grazed.  Beyond the Duero to Sahagún is the Tierra de Campos – the Gothic Fields – archetypal meseta with extensive cereal cultivation dissected by steep-sided ravines surrounding villages spectacularly sited on spurs.

Weather.   Mountain weather from Madrid to Segovia ; elsewhere, weather similar to that between Burgos and Astorga on the Camino francés – extremely hot in the three summer months especially July and August and nine months of bitter cold.  Rain in spring and autumn.  Snow on the Sierra de Guaderrama until May.

When to go.   The route is walkable all the year, but July to early September is extremely hot and long stretches of the route have absolutely no shade.  Winter is severe with short days.  Spring (long daylight hours) and autumn are best, but may be wet.  Avoid the Sierra de Guadarrama in snow or bad weather: there are no farms, villages or facilities. You can take a train from Cercedilla to Segovia instead. Few pressures from tourism except perhaps in Madrid.

Valladolid: Church of Santiago

Valladolid: Church of Santiago

What to see.   Madrid: modern cosmopolitan city with famed art museums. Manzanares el Real: delightful lakeside town with monumental castle of the Mendozas. Segovia: World Heritage City with Gothic cathedral, spectacular alcázar perched on a crag above the rivers Clamores and Eresma, about a dozen Iglesias Porticadas, Romanesque churches with external galleries, the prototype of a style found all over Segovia and Soria provinces. Coca: spectacular Gothic-Mudéjar red brick castle, a fantastic creation of crenellated towers and turrets. Simancas: important defensive site along the line of the Duero with a castle, originally Moorish then Christian and designated by Felipe II as the ‘General Archive of the Kingdom’ ; Valladolid: (13 km east of Simancas) a major Spanish town with fine Plateresque churches and convents. Wamba: tiny picturesque village named after the Visigothic King Wamba allegedly elected king here with superb Mozarabic-Romanesque church. Medina de Rioseco: main town of the Tierra de Campos with an economy founded on sheep and cereals and 3 fine churches, one, the Santiago church, with a spectacular Baroque Rococo Retablo Mayor of the Life of Santiago, one of the most complete series in Spain. Grajal de Campos: imposing military fortress.

Where to stay.  Adequate accommodation, indeed a quite remarkable amount considering the route passes through so few towns and villages.  Hotel/hostal accommodation at intervals of 30 km except over the Sierra de Guadarrama (one alpine chalet near the summit only) and between Simancas and Sahagún – only two places with hotels/hostals on the camino itself but a couple of places with hostals are on the carretera 8 km to the east.  There is a limited amount of free or donation-based or inexpensive pilgrim refugios – please see here for a description of accommodation for an April 2014 pilgrimage.  Very few campsites – and wild camping in pine forests is not recommended because of the risk of fire.

Distinctive features of the route.   Very quiet and peaceful with very few pilgrims.  Would appeal to those seeking solitude and the open spaces and wide horizons of the meseta. More path and less road than on any other pilgrim route; opportunity to walk stretches of Roman road (over the Puerto Fuenfria in the Sierra de Guadarrama) and Cañadas Reales. Except for the climb over the Sierra de Guadarrama, flat and easy walking – no hills or gradients of any significance and difficult to get lost.  Cyclable almost all the way. No major industrial towns (other than Madrid) to negotiate – delightful market towns and picturesque villages all the way – even Segovia is a collection of small village centres. Madrid is easily and cheaply reached at the start and you can visit the Madrid Amigos in their office before departing. Madrid to Sahagún can be walked in 2 weeks – an ideal pilgrimage for the busy individual.

Guide books.

  • Camino de Madrid, The Confraternity of Saint James, London, 2017 Angelika Schneider & Johnnie Walker, pp 34. The 315km route via Segovia and  Simancas joins the traditional Camino  Francés at Sahagún.  This is available as:

Any available updates for this guide can be found on our CSJ Guides and Updates page.

  • Camino de Madrid a Santiago de Compostela : Tramo de Madrid – Segovia – Valladolid – Sahagún.  Guia para peregrinos a pie, bicicleta y caballo, by José Antonio Cimadevila Covelo and others, 1999.  Obtainable from Asociación de Amigos de los Caminos de Santiago de Madrid, Calle Carretas 14,  28012 Madrid.  Comprehensive guide in Spanish to the route, the towns and countryside with appendices of facilities along the route, height and gradient profiles and 69 tiny photographs to give a flavour of the journey.

Pictures. For pictures of the Madrid route, visit our digital image gallery, the Pictures Pages of the Camino.

Discussion Forum. Visit the Camino de Santiago Forum to join in the current conversation.

Language. While it is not impossible to take this route without any command of Spanish prospective pilgrims are strongly urged to learn as much as possible before they set out.  Please see our FAQ Do I need to speak Spanish or French? for suggested ways of learning.

Website/Guide to Madrid

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